A/N: So it's been almost a year (yikes!) I have no excuse for what happened. I guess I just kind of forgot. I had to reread and reread all the outlines and chapters I had written to even remember most of the story and what I had planned, and so I apologize if things seem completely different from earlier chapters. This is by no means the best work I've done, but I had a recent urge to finish this story, and hopefully this go around I will. So here is the long over due chapter—please be gentle.


England, August 1552

She walked down the familiar cobblestone path, a beat to her step, excitement building in her stomach. 'Today,' she thought, 'today!.' Anne bristled beside her, using her sharp elbow to stay one step ahead of Grace. Even Anne seemed to have regained some kind of emotion to her body. This was a change from the vacant looks she had sported all through the month Edward was away, probably due to the face she had not been asked to be a member of the court which followed him.

They were nearing the entrance to the hall which would take them to the banquet hall, when Gracelin who had been watching her feet in an attempt to hide the gleeful look on her face, was roughly grabbed by her aunt's wispy hands.

"Gracelin!" she shouted.

Startled, Grace looked up at Anne, her face contorted, ready to respond to whatever Anne was about to accuse her of.

"Mr. Fitzpatrick would like a word with you before supper," Anne spat out, as if having to tell Grace this fact had caused her mouth to develop boils like those Grace had seen on some of the peasants.

"Me, ma'am?"

"Yes, you. You insufferable excuse for a niece."

Grace had to bite the inside of her mouth to keep from screaming, but instead took three calming breaths, a trick Mrs. Hay had taught her in an effort to control her temper. 'Barnaby? What in heaven's name could he want with me?' Grace thought, unaccustomed to Barnaby's attention, and a bit nervous about what he could possibly have to say. Was something wrong with Edward? What if something had happened and Edward's only way of telling her was to relay the message through Barnaby. Gracelin suddenly felt very ill, very worried, and very nervous.

"Are you ill, Gracelin?" Anne asked, false hope in her tone.

"No, ma'am, just a bit hot."

"It's the heat my dear," Lady Lockhart piped in, sliding her eyes sideways to look at Anne, as if reprimanding her for her tone of voice.

"Miss Grace!" Called a voice, and Gracelin turned from Anne and Lady Lockhart to see an older, and much changed Barnaby Fitzpatrick, leaning against the doorframe. He was much taller than she remembered him, though his dull brown hair remained the same. His eyes still held that same mischievous spark that Grace had seen before he had gone to France. However, Barnaby Fitzpatrick had changed. He was no longer the lanky boy with fair Irish skin. He had filled in his frame, and his skin had darkened, making him look much older than his almost sixteen years. Gracelin wondered if the slight Irish brogue he had possessed as a child still remained, or if instead a French tilt had replaced it.

"Mr. Fitzpatrick," she said cordially, slightly curtseying as she did so.

"Gracious how you've changed," Barnaby said, and with a small inward smile Gracelin noticed the Irish brogue could not been stamped out even by a stay in French Court.

"For the better I hope," she said, praying to God he would finish his pleasantries and tell her the news he must have about Edward.

"Aye, fair one, for the better. You must be wondering why I've called you over."

"I have, I hope nothing is amiss."

"Amiss? Why would anything be amiss?"

"Well Mr. Fitzpatrick, you have never sought my company before so I am to assume that it is because something is wrong."

"Wipe that fretful look off your face, nothing is wrong, in fact, I'm hoping you will tell me that everything will be perfect!"

"Perfect? Barnaby, excuse me, Mr. Fitzpatrick, how am I to tell you that everything is perfect?"

He smiled then, his eyes twinkling in a way that gave Gracelin shivers and brought the butterflies in her stomach back in full force.

"Ever since I have returned to England, a full week ago as you know, you have been on my mind. Everywhere I turn I see you, even when you are no where near. I fear I have become infatuated Gracelin," he whispered, his hand coming up to cup her cheek, causing her face to flush and a dread to build in her stomach. Her heart beat faster, thought she begged it to slow. She tried to speak, but words would not come out.

"What I am trying to tell you Grace, is that I have spoken to your Aunt, and pending my dear friend his Majesty's approval, I wish you to become my bride."

Gracelin nearly vomited.

"I am quite confident that Edward will approve, we have been close friends since we were but infants, taught together and reared together. I was hand chosen by his father to become one of is companions, I was even his whipping boy for a time Gracelin, there is no reason I can think of that would cause him to disapprove."

Grace could think of several.

"So I was thinking we would wed in a fortnight's time, in the royal chapel of course. I'm sure Edward would grant us the space, even though neither you nor I is truly royalty."

Grace felt the bile rise in her throat.

"So silent, my dear. Overwhelmed with happiness I assume? I assure you I can provide for a very satisfying and secure lifestyle. My father's lands in Ireland are waiting for me to claim them, and I plan to do so in the next few years, hopefully with you as my Lady. Dear me, are those the trumpets? We've got to hurry, come now!"

He grabbed her arm and dragged her through the doors, rushing her to the table and plunking them both down just minutes before Edward made his first entrance into the banquet hall in over a month. She felt a warm presence on her thigh and nearly jumped when she realized it was Barnaby's hand.

"Goodness he looks pale, does he not?"

Gracelin, already on a dangerous emotional ledge nearly gasped when her eyes rested on her beloved king. He was white as snow, his lips appearing almost blood red against his skin. Below his eyes were dark circles, outlining his tired eyes. Gracelin wanted to run to him, to hold him in her arms and let him sleep. He was so thin! Barnaby had pulled her to a seat much closer than she usually sat to Edward, and from her distance, she could see the severe lines of his shoulders where once only rounded flesh had rested.

He sat down very slowly, as if each step was costing him a great deal of effort. Dudley, himself looking rather portly, watched him with a great deal of attention, as if Edward were made of that Venetian glass Grace had heard so much about. It was tortue for Grace to watch, yet when Edward looked up once he had gotten himself comfortable in his chair, and the eyes Gracelin had dreamt of for a month finally connected with her own, she felt a happiness she had not felt for what seemed an eternity. Edward was home! He was here, only feet away from her, close enough that in only a few steps she could be cradled in his arms, safe from Barnaby's plans Anne's insults.

Edward's face was at first joyous, color even slightly returned to it. But as he glanced to who sat beside her, and the intimate way in which Barnaby had positioned his body next to hers, it sank and hardened; his eyes almost becoming enraged.

Grace failed to notice his reasons for suddenly becoming so upset, and sent a questioning expression to him on her face, but was only given a stony response from Edward. Confused and hurt, she scratched her ear, and to her immense relief, Edward scratched his in response.

"Would you pass the rolls Gracelin?" Barnaby asked, oblivious to the interaction between the two.

"What?" Grace said, turning her head to face Barnaby.

"The rolls, could you pass them?"

"Of course, Mr. Fitzpatrick."

"You know Grace, if this plan of mine goes through, you really should call me Barnaby. It would make us feel just that little bit closer, don't you think?" Grace nearly recoiled, scared at the almost obsenity of what he was asking.

"Mr. Fitzpatrick, I think it best if we remain with pleasantries," She told him, a no-nonsense tone in her voice.

The meal wore on, Grace constantly glancing to Edward, noticing that he was not eating much, just picking at a piece of bread and pushing a piece of meat around. She was worried. Between Barnaby's proposal, Edward's frailness, and Edward's apparent anger at her, she was quickly becoming a very concerned young woman.

Finally, after almost an hour, the court retired, sped on by Dudley's request that the King was tired from his trip and desired to retire early. Barnaby insisted on walking Gracelin to her quarters, but she only allowed him to walk her to the entrance hall.

"Goodnight, Mr. Fitzpatrick," she said almost tersely.

"Goodnight, Ms. Reynesford. I do wish you would let me call you Grace. Such a nice ring to your name when it is shortened, don't you agree?"

Angry he had used the name Edward called her, she replied in the iciest voice she could, "No, I do not." Startled, Barnaby simply smiled confusedly, bowed slightly, and walked back down the path. Grace watched him go with a dread in her stomach. What was she to say to Edward? What would Edward say to Barnaby?

It was another few hours before she could meet with Edward. She felt guilty as she tiptoed down the path later that night. He had looked so tired, so very frail. He should be sleeping now, not meeting her at this hour of the night so far from his room. But her desire to see him outweighed any guilty feelings, and they were instantly forgotten when she pulled the kitchen door back to see Edward standing by the counter, conversing with Mrs. Hay and staring at the bowl of broth in front of him.

He looked up as she entered, and she immediately ran to him, throwing her arms about his neck and burrowing her head into his chest. His arms too, came around her, holding her tightly to him. The longer he held her, the more Gracelin realized that he was not as well as he should be. He felt so thin. Where once his frame seemed to safeguard her, she now felt that she had more meat on her body than he did. She could could feel the outline of his ribs even through his tunic.

They finally released each other, and simply smiled, at a loss for words though Edward looked troubled. It was Grace who spoke first.

"Edward, are you alright?"

"Just fine," came his reply, measured and soft, though a bit more hoarse than Grace remembered.

"I've missed you so much. I went to mass everyday to pray for your return. Everyday! Are you proud Edward?"

"Very proud, Gracelin," he said again, this time in an almost condescending manner, which caused Grace to frown.

"Gracelin? What happened to Grace?"

He took a breath, searched her face and then asked in a very controlled voice, "What happened with Barnaby?"



She was taken aback by his tone, as if he was accusing her of something. She opened her mouth, but words did not come. She felt she must look like a fish so finally she simply said, "Barnaby Fitzpatrick? Edward, I, nothing with Barnaby. Why do you speak to me so?"

"Because today at supper, instead of finding your smiling face next to your Aunt, I see you sitting with Barnaby, his hands near your lap and sitting rather close to you."
"Edward you can't possibly think that—"

"I don't know what to think Gracelin, you tell me."

"Don't speak to me like that Edward, I did nothing wrong. He surprised me today, with news I didn't want to hear, nor will you, though I don't know how you will say no it. He wants to marry me Edward, that's why he was sitting with me. I did not chose to sit there, nor for his hands to be there. I have dreamed of nothing but this night for a month! You are all I want, not Barnaby. He wants to take me to Ireland, away from here and away from you, and I can't, Edward I just can't…" she began to cry as she finished, covering her face in her hands and turning away from him.

She felt a hand on her back, then another on her hip and felt herself being pulled to him. She uncovered her face to see a stricken expression on his and whispered, "I'm sorry."

"Sorry? Oh Grace I'm the one who should be sorry. Forgive me. Shh… there now, dry your eyes."

"But Edward, what am I going to do? My aunt has already given her approval and Barnaby knows you will tell him yes because you are such good friends."

"I don't know Grace but I will think of something."

She brought herself closer to him and let herself become cradled into his embrace. He coughed quietly, she could feel his body shudder to repress another one.

"Edward are you ill?"

"Just a slight cough, nothing to worry about."

Grace was hearing none of it. Images of Edward lying deathly pale and still on his bed still were sharp in her mind. She made him sit in front of the fire after he absolutely refused to head back to his room. Mrs. Hay had reappeared after her quiet exit with a blanket and another bowl of broth.

"You'd do better back in your bed I think," Mrs. Hay said, pulling the blanket up over Edward's chest.

"I know, but just for tonight I'd like to spend some time here." He smiled at Grace and she leaned over him to kiss his forehead.

He closed his eyes in response, and opened them slowly. "I've missed you Grace," he whispered, "so very much."

"I've missed you as well."

"Don't worry about Barnaby, I'll think of something, I really will."

"I know Edward, I know."

"I'm sorry about earlier. It's just that the idea of you with someone else, it makes my blood curdle."

"Mine too Edward. Just rest now beloved, I expect you healthy again in a fortnight."

He laughed in response, but did close his eyes and was soon fast asleep.

Grace let him sleep for a few hours before deciding it was time he should be getting back to his quarters before somebody noticed the King was not there and all mayhem broke loose.

Ever so gently, she shook his shoulder, again concerned about how much weight he had lost as she felt the bones press into her palm.

"Edward," she whispered, "you'd best be getting back."

Slowly, he pushed the blanket off of him, and sat up gingerly, as if his body was aching. He rubbed his eyes and yawned, then turned to Gracelin.

"Would you walk me back a long the path? I fear I may fall back asleep before I make it."

Grace quickly agreed, and helped him to his feet. She sat him on a stool, and folded the blanket while he waited, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Putting the blanket on the counter, she returned to the fire, making sure it would burn down safely and not cause the entire kitchens to go up in flame. Finally, she walked back to Edward, and helped him to his feet. He swayed slightly, but quickly righted himself. She smiled at him, and made to kiss him.

"Wait! I do not want you to catch ill."

"I'm a hearty girl Edward, I'll take the risk."

He smiled wearily, but even through slight sickness, hormones won the battle and he leaned in to meet her in a long awaited kiss.

It was just as their lips had separated that a creaking of a doorframe was heard and a mop of dull brown hair was seen, and all Grace could say was, "Barnaby…"